Frampton-Santa Cruz II: Why I’m Leaning to the Would-Be Avenger

FRAMPTON-SANTA CRUZ: THE REMATCH — The last time WBA featherweight champ Carl Frampton 23-0 (14) and Leo Santa Cruz 32-1-1 (18) touched gloves, the bout was an instant classic. This Saturday night they’ll meet in a rematch. Frampton, who won a very close and somewhat controversial decision the last time, said he doesn’t believe the second time around will be quite as difficult, with a lot of that resting on his preparation and training. In addition to that, Frampton is intent on proving the result of the first fight wasn’t a fluke.

Frampton said, “I believe there is a lot more to come for me. I’ve been performing better this camp than ever before. I think I win this fight more convincingly.

“I got drawn in to Leo’s type of fight last time, which made it very exciting. Because of our styles, it’s always going to be a good fight.”

Yes, Frampton is correct. Like Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, when he and Santa Cruz meet, it’s always going to be a close and competitive fight with the outcome most likely hinging on minor adjustments made by both fighters. This leads me to the reason why I favor Santa Cruz this time. When they last fought, Frampton was counting on Santa Cruz carrying the fight to him. Leo obliged him and brought the heat at a steady pace and in the process often over-committed to his big shots, seeking the stoppage. In doing that Carl used effective head and upper-body movement, thus forcing Santa Cruz to miss him – and in the process, Leo left himself open and in position to be countered. And that’s exactly what Frampton did, countering Santa Cruz with solid hooks and uppercuts on the inside, and then using his feet to get out.

Predictably, Santa Cruz resumed the attack and the process repeated itself. During the later rounds, when Frampton slowed down a little, Santa Cruz didn’t miss as much and closed the gap. In the main, Frampton, for a better part of the fight, used Santa Cruz’s reach and aggression against him. However, as the bout progressed, I sensed that Leo picked up on that and started to fight slightly more measured, and instead of looking for the spectacular shots, was more committed to scoring without being countered.

Frampton said, “I don’t see any way Leo can change his game. He will just come after me as hard as last time. He threw 1100 punches at me that night. He can’t do much more this time….but even if he does, it will just give me more chances to nail him.” And Frampton is right to a degree. He benefited the last time because Santa Cruz was a little sloppy with his punch output and aggression, and Frampton was able to make him pay for that with his defense and counters.

In the last fight Santa Cruz used what always worked…aggression accompanied with a high work-rate, and Frampton is expecting more of the same this coming Saturday night. If that’s what Santa Cruz tries again, he’ll again be over-extending himself and leaving himself open to be countered. Instead of trying to bring more of what didn’t quite get the job done, Leo should lay back a little, try to line his shots to come from the center more……and not seek the knockout. His advantage in reach did him no good the last time because he basically smothered his own offense trying to beat Frampton down. This time Leo should concentrate on throwing more double and triple jabs mixed with right hands that he doesn’t load up on. If Santa Cruz can keep Frampton at the end of his shots more, it’ll be harder for Carl to create offense. And if Santa Cruz is disciplined and fights a little more measured, Frampton, out of frustration, will be the one that has to take chances and bring the fight to Santa Cruz – which will put him more in range for Leo to hit him flush on the way in.

Fighting at a more measured pace will take a lot of restraint on Santa Cruz’s part. But stylistically, it’s the only adjustment he can make without changing his stripes. If he can touch Frampton without over-extending himself seeking the knockout, Carl might get impatient and reckless, and start hunting him down, thus he’ll be more open to be led into big shots. And for that reason, along with the belief that the judges, two of whom are Nevadans, will be inclined to score close rounds for the Californian, Santa Cruz, is why I think he wins this time.

Their styles dictate that it will be a competitive fight, and if somehow Santa Cruz has his hands raised after a good tough close fight, it makes good business sense that they fight a rubber match to break the tie.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME

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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at